Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Census 2006: Another Nigerian Spectacle?

Despite four censuses in the past, the much awaited and keenly debated 2006 census commenced under a cloud of apathy, apprehension and acrimony. The widespread confusion and pockets of violence in some regions as reported by the various news agencies and in the Nigerian blogosphere makes me wonder if Nigeria has what it takes to exist as a progressive nation.

Would it be too early to predict a lousy result given what is unfolding in the country?

No, I don’t think so; events reported so far point to the same conclusions: lousy planning, irrational decisions and shoddy execution.

I wonder if the Nigerian Population Commission, the agency in charge of conducting the census, is even capable to doing a thorough job if it can’t decide “when and how long” restriction of movement should be.
“First, we were told to stay at home Tues-Sat. Then, the President stepped in and said we only have to be grounded Fri and Sat. Meanwhile, Lagos State had already decreed that everyone must stay home for the whole 5 days, as originally planned…”,reports Jeremy, a blogger residing in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja.
To have thought of enforcing restriction between 8:00AM and 4:00 PM for 5 days is absurd and irrational!
“I know quite a few people who did leave their state of residence (despite numerous directives by the government not to do so) to spend the census 'holiday' in their states of origin”, -- Oro, another Nigerian blogger.
Isn’t this sort of transition between “states of residence” and “states of orgin” defeating the purpose of a census?

The 2006 census appears to be doomed before it even started because of the threat of boycott following the exclusion of ethnicity and religion questions from the survey. These are important but not critical variables, and in my opnion doesn’t warrant the call for boycott as I stated in an earlier post:

The widespread logistical mess unfolding is a painful rendition of what is wrong with Nigeria. According to the Reuters News agency:
"Many census takers refused to begin because they were not paid. Reuters correspondents in northern Borno, Bauchi and Kano states, central Plateau, southeastern Anambra and Enugu and southern Rivers, all reported delays over unpaid wages…

"In an apparently isolated incident in Anambra in the southeast, members of a separatist group, the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, tried to stop people from being counted.

"In southwestern Ondo state, where five people died in a dispute between two ethnic groups over ownership of a village.

"State television footage from across the country showed crowds of census takers in shouting matches with officials of the National Population Commission. There was almost no footage of counting taking place.”
Given the shoddy arrangement for the census, the use of- and reliance on- technology is silly, isn’t it? Check out this statement credited to the Nigerian President, Mr Obasanjo by the Voice of America:
"For the first time in the conduct of census in Nigeria, the 2006 census has employed such technology as the use of geographic positioning system, GPS, and satellite imageries,"
Pure hog crap! Has the president ever heard of the phrase: "Garbage in, garbage out"?

Will someone tell the president that technology (in this case) is not a silver bullet; it's relevant and useful only after thorough preparation, adequate logistics, and pertinent issues have been handled.

Finally, there is a question that is yet to be addressed that demands a prompt answer:

How does the insurgency in the Niger-Delta impact the census in this area? Is there any provision (by the government) to address the (expected) undercounting of the people of this region?